Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

Clinical-Comm. Psyc

First Advisor

Jane E Roberts

Second Advisor

Jeffrey C Schatz

Abstract

The current study examined the association between specific child and maternal factors and parenting stress in three high-risk groups of mothers - mothers of boys diagnosed with idiopathic autism (IA), mothers of boys diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) associated with fragile X syndrome (AFXS), and mothers of boys diagnosed with fragile X syndrome (FXS) alone. These three groups of mothers are thought to share some degree of genetic vulnerability to stress, as well as exposure to varying levels of challenging child behavioral characteristics. Theories of parenting stress incorporate multiple components, including parent, child, and parent-child interaction factors. The current study examined differences in maternal parenting stress across groups of high-risk mothers, as well as the relationship between child problem behaviors and the various dimensions of parenting stress. Additionally, the current study examined the relationship between maternal characteristics of the broader autism phenotype (BAP) and parenting stress in mothers of children with IA. The differential impact of maternal BAP across dimensions of parenting stress was explored.

The primary sample of participants for the present study came from an extant dataset including 48 mothers of boys with IA, 20 mothers of boys with AFXS, and 56 mothers of boys with FXS alone. A secondary sample of 20 biological mothers of male children with IA was recruited to address secondary questions related to the maternal BAP - parenting stress relationship. Results indicated a significant difference in child-

related parenting stress among groups of mothers from the primary sample. Regression analysis indicated significant main effects for general child behavior problems and maternal IQ, but not for ASD symptomatology for the primary sample. Results also indicated a significant interaction between maternal group and general child behavior problems. Exploratory secondary analyses indicated that scores from one subscale of a BAP measure significantly predicted both child- and parent-related stress scores. Surprisingly, general child behavior problems did not make a significant contribution to the prediction of parenting stress scores for mothers from this secondary sample. Limitations of the current study and potential implications for practice are discussed.

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